Why You Should be Friends with A Therapist
Therapists make excellent friends. You should be friends with a therapist (or several! just not your own, for the obvious ethical reasons). But therapists can make truly great friends, and let me tell you why.
It's worth pointing out that I am entirely biased when it comes to this blog post. Obviously I am a therapist, so naturally I see therapists in a positive light and have lots of friends who are therapists. Nevertheless, biased though I am, I think there is a real case to be made for being friends with therapists.
It's also worth pointing out that this blog idea came to me after I had a conversation with a good friend of mine who is also a psychologist. The short version of the story is that she did something that left me feeling a little miffed, and I told her this, and she validated my feelings and explained her side, and I validated her feelings and explained how I had seen it, and we both felt better and closer after the conversation. It was a truly perfect example of addressing an issue without defensiveness, anger, or predetermined conclusions. It made me realize the value of having friends who are therapists.
A friend who is also a therapist will be a lookout and a support, all without being judgmental. Their clinical training has taught them how to respect boundaries, communicate, help without taking over, and generally be a solid friend.
Therapists Know How to Create Safe Spaces
We are trained on how to make spaces that feel safe, warm, and non-judgmental. Psychologists spend 4+ years learning the art of creating an ideal therapeutic environment, and also being able to adjust this environment depending on what the client needs in the moment.
If you have something difficult to talk about, chances are, your therapist friend will be a great listener. They will know what questions to ask, when to sit back and listen, and how to hold that safe space so that you feel heard, understood, and cared for by the end.
Therapists Can Hold a lot of Mixed Feelings
Are you feeling lots of feelings, some of which don't seem to go together. For example, have you ever been annoyed and frustrated with your partner but also felt a lot of love and understanding for them? Or how about being angry with a family member about some recent issue but also being incredibly close to that person and wanting to see them for dinner even though you're deeply irritated?
No matter what conflicting, confusing mixed of feelings you're having, a friend who's a therapist will get it. They will let you have all your feelings without judgment. They will hold all of that emotion and won't push you to pick a feeling, whereas other friends might have a hard time balancing that.
They Won't Get Involved... Unless You Ask
Therapists know how to listen, support, and not nudge. We are trained in helping people understand their feelings and needs, but letting our clients make their own decisions. So even if they have a strong opinion about what you should do, a therapist friend will probably refrain from sharing that opinion unless explicitly asked. If you do want help, they will be there to offer advice, but they also won't be offended if you don't do what they recommend.
Therapists Can Help you Practice Your Skills
Working on communicating more effectively? Trying to set clearer boundaries? Do you want to practice going out to a new place that makes you nervous? Guess what, your therapist friend will be a great asset! They are trained in helping people work on their growing edges, and will be supportive of you working on the skills that you want to strengthen.
They are great people to recruit for help. For example, you could just outright tell them what you're working on and ask them to be an ally, such as: "I'm really trying to not people please all the time and say no to things that I don't feel up to doing. If you ask me to hang out, I might say no if I'm too tired, but I might also check to see if you're upset with me about it. want to not worry about disappointing people, but I'll need a little help getting there!"
They Won't Be Your Therapist
Well-trained therapists will also know how to set boundaries around their work. As in, they won't treat you like a client or try to be your therapist. The truth is, a friend can't be a therapist. There are ethical reasons for this, but also for more practical reasons, a friend cannot be unbiased enough to be a therapist to someone they personally know. So you don't need to worry about the friend acting like your therapist, because they won't.
They Have the Best Recommendations
Therapists have great resources. It takes therapists years to accrue and vet the curated list of books, podcasts, blogs, and other clinical providers, and being friends with one will give you instant access.
Do you need a blog on dealing with temper tantrums? A podcast on ADHD? A book about setting boundaries with parents?
How about a referral for a great therapist in town? A psychiatrist who sees kids? A nutritionist to work on a healthier relationship with food?
Your therapist friend will have you covered. Or, if they don't have a name off the top of their head, they probably know the right people to ask for great recommendations.
And There You Have It!
Are you quite convinced that therapists make great friends? I know I am.
Again, I recognize (and disregard) my bias in writing this. But truly, therapists are generally emotionally attuned, empathic, supportive, and non-judgmental individuals. Go befriend a therapist and enjoy all those perks.